Let me tell you about my friend Ken.
Ken was an IT professional, and had a Microsoft certification. He worked in the industry for years.
But he also knew that it wasn’t his passion — he liked computers and he liked helping people, but it wasn’t the technology that really motivated and energized him. He had no ambitions to be like a head of IT department, overseeing big networks. He wanted to stay on more of an end-user support or helpdesk level, where he could work with people and help them directly. So his career really wasn’t going anywhere, as what he preferred was low-end jobs, relatively speaking.
When he moved to Saint Paul over a year ago, he assumed that he would get another IT job. So he did the regular job hunt thing — post resume on Monster, talk to recruiting agencies, take on some temp projects, and so on. But nothing was working.
Discouraged, he started questioning his career direction. He and I sat down to talk one time, and he admitted that he was a poor fit, personality-wise, to a lot of IT guys he’s seen — who appeared more macho and often arrogant, driven more by the thirst for technology than by working with technically-challenged. He told me about one IT director who spent his personal time following latest tech news and trends, and Ken admitted he wasn’t like that.
Now, Ken also knew that he was into working with wood. A few years ago he took a break from IT career and was a freelance handyman for a year or two. While he didn’t enjoy the whole self-employment deal — he didn’t like promoting, bidding, or following up on customers to pay — but he liked the act of working with wood. His wife and friends who knew this encouraged him to explore more of that direction in his career path.
In fact, one day my wife found him a help-wanted listing by a small local toy manufacturer, one who specializes in making high-quality wooden toys. It needed some temp help to deal with pre-Christmas boost in business. Ken was intrigued, and he applied to the job. When the owners of the business got in touch with Ken, he found that he liked them very much. Unfortunately, they were non-committal about bringing him in, being cautious about the volume of business now that economy was on the rocks.
And here is where it gets interesting: Ken went to visit the business, and realizing that he was indeed very attracted in making these wooden toys and working with these people, he volunteered to help. For no pay. I just want to gain some experience, he said — you don’t have to pay me, just let me work.
Moved by his interest, the owners accepted, though they were conscientious enough to offer him some pay for his work.
A few months later, the owners liked Ken so much that upon confirming that they had enough business to keep him, they offered him a full-time, permanent-with-benefits job.
Ken was so ecstatic and proud, that he took my family out to dinner to thank us, as my wife was the one who saw the original job listing.
Financially, I know this was a major downgrade. There’s a big gap in pay scale between IT professionals and wooden toy manufacturers. But Ken is so happy to work now — he just can’t wait to go to work each day.
So here’s the moral of the story: if you know what you love, start doing it. Even for a few minutes a day, or for no pay at first — just do it. If it is love that’s driving you, then love will find a way to make it work.